Carlisle, Mavs familiar with Celtics decision on Pierce

Carlisle, Mavs familiar with Celtics decision on Pierce
June 12, 2013, 1:45 pm
Share This Post

SAN ANTONIO -- Paul Pierce's future with the Celtics should come to some semblance of resolution in the next couple of weeks, with more and more signs pointing toward the captain's run with the C's coming to an end. 

Boston has the option until June 30 of buying out the final year of Pierce's contract for $5 million, rather than be on the hook for $15.3 million, which he is due to make this season.

The fiscal challenges facing NBA teams in this day and age make it difficult for players like Pierce to finish out their careers with just one team. 

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is among those who isn't crazy about the idea of Pierce moving on to another team.

"My hope is it doesn't happen," Carlisle, who wore jersey No. 34 when he played for the C's in the 1980s, told "But there are certain realities that all teams face now, so time will tell."

If the Celtics brought back Pierce and his $15.3 million salary along with picking up the options on minimum-salary players such as Shavlik Randolph, Terrence Williams and D.J. White, the team's payroll would approach the $80 million mark -- almost $10 million above the luxury tax threshold.

It would also put the C's squarely on track to be a "repeat tax offender" which would more than double their tax bill under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement beginning in the 2014-2015 season which is when the "repeater rate" takes effect for teams that exceeded the luxury tax threshold (it has been $70.3 million since the 2011-2012 season) in the three previous seasons.

Buying Pierce out for $5 million would go far in the C's efforts to avoid being a luxury tax payer for this current fiscal season, which ends June 30.

Trading Pierce is another option under consideration, but there's a good chance a C's trade partner would need to send back players in return to make the deal work money-wise. And by doing that, it wouldn't address the Celtics' primary motivation to move him, which is to get under the luxury tax threshold.

So any trade the C's were to pursue, would likely have to be for a player that makes paying all those millions in taxes worthwhile in the eyes of ownership. 

Carlisle and the Mavericks went through something similar following their title run in 2011.

Dallas failed to re-sign a number of key players from that championship team, including current Celtic Jason Terry and recently retired guard Jason Kidd.

"Gut-wrenching" was how Carlisle described seeing those players leave, well aware that the road to repeating as champions would be daunting after their departure. 

After winning it all in 2011, the Mavericks' revamped roster in 2012 garnered a seventh-seed in the West before being swept in the first round of the playoffs by Oklahoma City.

And this past season, Dallas failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

However, the last two seasons have positioned Dallas to be major players on a free agent market that includes Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Josh Smith. 

"We're going to be active in free agency," said Carlisle, who did not specify any particular players the Mavericks were targeting. "We're an aggressive franchise by nature; our owner (Mark Cuban) is. And that's good. We're going to put together a good team."

And that is at the heart of why Pierce's days as a Celtic may be coming to an end soon. 

With more championships than any other NBA franchise, the C's are always looking for ways to better position themselves to be title contenders. Bringing Pierce back won't cut it, and the C's know it. 

Cutting him a check for $5 million to take his talents elsewhere appears to be a cold, almost callous handling of a player who is regarded as one of the franchise's all-time greats. But that's the NBA climate that we live in, one where a coach can set a franchise record for wins (see: George Karl), be named Coach of the Year that season, and still be fired. One where a player like Pierce, who has been the face of the franchise for more than a decade, can be let go for reasons that have little to do with his diminishing skills.

"He's going to be an all-time great Celtic; there's no doubt about that, for a couple of reasons," Carlisle said. "Number one, he was a great player and number two, he brought a championship, number 17 (in 2008). And number three, he did it over a long period of time with a great deal of consistency. As a guy in his mid to upper 30s, he's still a phenomenal player."